By Mario Rios, NIRSA
After a long 734 days, the NIRSA National Flag Football Championships returned to action in Round Rock, Texas, from Jan. 7-9 to crown champions in four divisions. Thirty teams from 21 schools competed in the windy chilly Texas air for national titles following the 2021 NIRSA Championship Series flag football season.
In the CoRec Division, UCF Get Co-Rekt played a controlled and dominating style to arrive at the championship game against Maryland CoRec. Central Florida did not allow a point in pool play and bracket play up to the championship game. Maryland struggled at the beginning of the tournament with two losses to open play. They turned up the defense and did not allow a point from that moment on until their championship matchup with UCF.
In the national championship game, it was Maryland who came out to a fast start going up 14-0 quickly over Central Florida. But UCF kept their poise and took over the scoring from that point on. Led by MVPs Caroline Coplinger and Jake Zimmerman, Central Florida came back and put the game away with a late touchdown in the fourth quarter to defeat Maryland 27-14.
In the Women’s Division, the matchup between the UCF Lady Knights and the UF Orange seemed destined from the very beginning. Central Florida marched through to the national championship game outscoring opponents 140-6 along the way. Florida paved their way to the final by outscoring their opponents 148-6. While the final matchup wasn’t heavy on scoring, it did have maximum drama and a little something extra.
The Women’s national championship game was epic. Each time each team found ways to drive the field, the other would find ways to stop their advancement; it was 0-0 midway through the fourth quarter. UCF scored on an opportunistic pick after a Florida completion and backward pass attempt. It was a 45-yard return for a touchdown. Florida responded immediately with a 66-yard pass and lateral that tied the game, which then headed into overtime. Central Florida stopped Florida after four attempts to score. It was Central Florida’s turn to score next. A six-yard fade pass on fourth down to MVP Jenna Springthorpe for a touchdown gave UCF a 13-7 overtime win and their second national title of the tournament. Springthorpe also led her team in touchdowns scored.
In the Unified Division, Nebraska took control of the division in pool play and had a bye through to the final. Colorado State earned their spot in the final after a 31-20 win over Utah. The Unified national championship game was a tremendous atmosphere of sporting behavior and great play. Nebraska won each of their games in the tournament comfortably and the final was no different. They sprinted out to a big lead in the final against Colorado State and held it as they won the Unified national title 29-13. Nebraska was led by tournament MVP Matt Hoffman who led the team in touchdowns and sacks.
The Men’s Division also seemed to have a destined matchup. The Georgia College RNC outscored their opponents by 154 points on their way to final. The South Texas College King Fish held a 191-point advantage over their opponents on their path to the final. The national championship game was to be a battle between two dominating opponents. Instead, it became a showcase for one dominating player who decided who the national champions would be.
In the Men’s national championship there was one player who made the difference: Robert Tovar. The tournament MVP led South Texas College in touchdowns throughout the tournament and in the final. South Texas College scored first on a Tovar TD reception over Georgia College. In the next series, Tovar ended up with the ball in his hands on defense and returned that for a TD. After a Georgia College safety cut the lead to 14-2, South Texas College took a late drive in the first half to score a 21-yard TD pass to Tovar. Georgia College cut the lead to 21-8 in the second half. Late in the fourth quarter, South Texas College put the game to bed on a 71-yard touchdown pass to Tovar. The final score was 28-8 with South Texas College claiming the national title.
Congratulations to the All-Tournament teams!
- MVP: Caroline Caplinger, University of Central Florida – Get Co-Rekt
- MVP: Jake Zimmerman, University of Central Florida – Get Co-Rekt
- Anna Seaton, Dixie State – Trailblazers
- Augustus Dahl, University of Central Florida – Get Co-Rekt
- Macey Hatton, University of Central Florida – Get Co-Rekt
- Logan Masters, Maryland CoRec
- Alyssa Drain, Maryland CoRec
- Tyler Cariaga, Maryland CoRec
Women’ s Division
- MVP: Jenna Springthorpe, University of Central Florida – Lady Knights
- Anna Margaret Jones, Georgia College – Beast
- Lehiwa Benson, Dixie State Trailblazers
- Sydney Stout, University of Florida – Orange
- Kimberly Ryan Slinkowsky, University of Florida – Orange
- Maggie Miller, University of Central Florida – Lady Knights
- Brittney Jabot, University of Florida – Orange
- MVP: Robert Tovar, South Texas College – Kingfish
- Xavier Sanchez, Angelo State – Troll Tide
- Miguel Gonzalez, UMD Club Flag Football
- Joshua Garza, South Texas College – Kingfish
- Guadalupe Perez, South Texas College – Kingfish
- Joshua Hammond, Georgia College – RNC
- Brice Davis, Georgia College – RNC
- MVP: Matt Hoffman, University of Nebraska – Lincoln
- Jacob Schriter, University of Utah
- Davey Mathis, Colorado State
- Tyler Anderson, Colorado State
- Austin Hoffman, University of Nebraska – Lincoln
Positive Sporting Behavior Awards
Winning the positive sporting behavior awards were Texas A&M University in the CoRec Division, University of Texas San Antonio A in the Women’s Division, and Georgia Southern University in the Men’s Division. All schools should be commended for adhering to the integral component of intercollegiate competition: positive sporting behavior.
A resounding thanks go out to all our student officials. Their contributions to the tournament experience are invaluable. Congratulations to all, including our All-American officials!
- Josh Smith, University of Maryland
- Doug Ream, University of Kentucky
- Broderick Hammond, Georgia Southern University
- Matt Amezaga, Texas A&M University
- Isaac Estrada, Oklahoma State University
- Nick Mauro, University of Maryland
- Hannah Williams, North Carolina State University
- Clifford Richardson, Oklahoma State University
- James Blount, The University of Alabama
- Nathan Ha, Texas A&M University – Commerce
A big THANK YOU to our staff for their part in supporting this tournament. We can’t provide these quality tournaments and memorable experiences for our student participants and officials without our amazing volunteers from across the nation!
- Amanda Alpert, University of Mississippi
- Anna Castillo, Southwestern University
- Arturo Cabrera, The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley
- Britton Lyon, Georgia Southern University
- Clint Jones, St. Edward’s University
- Cynthia Lally, Methodist University
- Dan Wrenholt, Washburn University
- Dave Stewart, Towson University
- Dom Dunn, The Ohio State University
- Gabby Sokol, University of Mississippi
- Jerrell Kelly, Western Kentucky University
- Joe Wise, University of Texas at Austin
- Julie Johnson, Saint Louis University
- Kaulin Andric, Texas A&M University
- Keegan Ashbee, Auburn University
- Mario Rios, Texas State University
- Matthew Cooley, University of Washington Bothell
- Megan Brady, Florida State University
- Mike Chadee, University of Texas Southwestern
- Montrell Cade, University of Maryland
- Nick White, Missouri S&T
- Nikki Vance, University of Oregon
- Roger Jerez, University of Pennsylvania
- Ryan Wingers, Georgia Southern University
- Stephanie Calhoun, University of Georgia
- Tyler Burroughs, Kansas State University
Thank you to our Supporting Sponsor USA Football for their participation in this year’s tournament.
Thank you to our hosts and recreation partners from St. Edward’s University, Southwestern University, and The University of Texas at Austin.
A special thanks go out to the City of Round Rock and the crew from the Round Rock Multipurpose Complex for their outstanding contributions to a great tournament!
It was great to have a NIRSA national flag football tournament again after such a long wait. It would not have been possible without the contributions of everyone involved.
Congratulations to all the teams and staff for making the tournament experience a wonderful one. We hope to see everyone next year at the 2022 NIRSA National Flag Football Championships!
Mario Rios is currently the assistant director of sport clubs at Texas State University.